HEARN CLAIMS PROVISIONAL POLE FOR BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 PRESENTED BY TEXACO/HAVOLINE PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 1999) - Richie Hearn of Della Penna Motorsports took advantage of a rapidly drying track Friday to earn the first provisional pole...
HEARN CLAIMS PROVISIONAL POLE FOR BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 PRESENTED BY TEXACO/HAVOLINE
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 1999) - Richie Hearn of Della Penna Motorsports took advantage of a rapidly drying track Friday to earn the first provisional pole position of his four-year FedEx Championship Series career for Sunday's Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline at Portland Interrnational Raceway (4 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
Hearn (Budweiser Toyota Reynard) posted a lap of 117.369 miles per hour (1:00.394 seconds) on the slightly reconfigured 1.969-mile permanent road course in the late stages of the second of two scheduled 30-minute qualifying sessions. As a result, he claimed the provisional pole on a day when half of the 28-car field - the fastest qualifiers from the April 18 event at Long Beach, most recent road course event in the FedEx Championship Series - was forced to the slower, treaded rain tires because of wet conditions during the earlier session.
Qualifying for the first group was also impeded when a spin by Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), followed by heavy rain, caused the session to be shortened from 30 to the CART-mandated minimum green-flag time of 20 minutes.
Hearn, whose provisional pole position was the first for a Toyota-powered driver since Max Papis at Detroit last year, will be seeking his best career start when final qualifying begins at 3:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Hearn's present career-best start of third came at Michigan last year.
Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) qualified a provisional second at 117.017 mph (1 minute, .576 seconds). He is chasing a season-best start as he looks to improve on third in the season opener at Homestead.
Robby Gordon (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift) gave Toyota two provisional qualifiers among the top three by taking third at 115.941mph (1:01.138 seconds). He is after a season-best start as well as he looks to top ninth last month at Gateway.
Rounding out the provisional top five were Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) at 114.844 mph (1:01.722) and Roberto Moreno (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) at 114.732 mph (1:01.782)
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
RICHIE HEARN, Budweiser Toyota Reynard: "Right before the last yellow flag, I was out on rain tires, and the caution came out as I came into the pits. I could see the track was drying, so I told my guys to put slicks on and we ended up getting six or seven laps at the end of the session on dry tires. We had pretty well balanced the car this morning, so when I came in this afternoon we knew exactly where to go. This is a tremendous boost for our team, for Toyota, for Budweiser. No matter what happens the rest of this weekend, this feels really good to go home on top today."
PATRICK CARPENTIER, Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard: "We came and tested a few weeks ago and had a shunt on a corner in the front straight, so we didn't get as much time as we wanted. It feels weird to be here [in the post-qualifying press conference] when the other guys were running in the rain, but we'll see what happens tomorrow [during final qualifying]."
ROBBY GORDON, Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift: "I guess timing is everything, huh? Fortunately for us, it dried up and we had a set of slicks to go to [for provisional qualifying]. I thought the guys who got the last full clear lap without being caught up in traffic were going to be quickest, and I think Richie [Hearn], Patrick [Carpentier] and I turned out to be those guys. We've got an advantage in that we have some data to look at, where a lot of other guys had a wasted day because of the weather."
WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY * Newman/Haas Racing driver Christian Fittipaldi was placed on probation Friday by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach for blocking violations during the June 6 Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Fittipaldi was in violation of Rule 8.12 of the CART Rule Book which states in part: "The alteration of a racing line based on the actions of pursuing competitors or the use of an abnormal racing line to inhibit or prevent passing is not allowed. ... Judgmental decisions by the Chief Steward regarding blocking and/or penalties assessed are not subject to protest or appeal." "The drivers asked for blocking to be policed and it was outlined with clarity in the pre-race drivers meeting at Milwaukee," Dallenbach said. "The blocking maneuvers have escalated in the past several races and we are reacting to it. We will continue to keep an eye on any blocking attempts and will continue to penalize drivers when necessary." The length of the probation period is indefinite and the removal of Fittipaldi from this status is at the discretion of Dallenbach.
* CART announced today that it has delayed its rule in regard to the air jack procedure in an effort to further evaluate and remedy the situation. The rule, scheduled to go into effect for this weekend's Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline, would not have allowed Champ Car teams to disconnect the air jack supply line and lower the car until the refueling is completed. The refueling personnel also was required to step away from the race car before the air supply line could be removed from the race car fitting. "We felt that the current rule did not fully rectify the situation and we wanted to examine some other options," said J. Kirk Russell, CART Vice President of Competition. "We have some alternatives already under consideration and should have a new rule in place sometime soon after this event."
* The reconfigured Portland International Raceway layout has been officially measured by Omega, the Official Timekeeper of the FedEx Championship Series, at 1.969 miles. The layout is .002 miles longer than the previous length due to an alteration to Turn 1. The apex of the turn was moved closer to the start/finish line, which is similar to the change made to Turn 1 at Long Beach in 1998. "The change will make it a little wider going into Turn 1 and should allow for better side-by-side racing and less congestion on the opening laps," said J. Kirk Russell, CART Vice President of Competition."
* Ty Manseau, vent/air jack man for Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), is not at Portland International Raceway this weekend. Manseau is recuperating from injuries sustained during the June 6 Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Manseau was run over by the left rear tire of Andretti's race car in the Milwaukee. He is undergoing one week of physical therapy to recover from soreness and possible torn muscles following the accident
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline will air 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.